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Guptas in spotlight in debate on money-laundering bill

May 18 2016 12:20
Thulani Gqirana, News24

Cape Town – The Gupta family took centre stage yet again in Parliament during a debate on a bill to combat money laundering and financial terrorism.

This after DA MP David Maynier asked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan if the influential Gupta family were under investigation by the Financial Intelligence Centre.

Parliament was debating the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment Bill, which was passed in the National Assembly on Wednesday. It has now been sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.

Maynier said the question was more urgent now, after media reports that the family may have bought a house worth over R400m in Dubai.

READ: Guptas buy $30m mansion in Dubai

“These have re-enforced concerns that the Guptas may have removed assets, including cash, illegally out of SA,” he said.

The same concern was raised by UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, who said Parliament could not talk about money laundering and turn a blind eye to the allegations around Gupta family business dealings.

Gordhan said the FIC could not say whether or not anyone was under investigation.

“The director of the FIC and the finance minister is prohibited by the legislation from indicating whether the FIC is investigating person X or Y,” he said.

The minister said it was unfair that they were being accused of obfuscation.

“Let me give you the assurance that we will do what is required by the law without fear or favour,” he said.

Gordhan said if they named people being investigated, it could give the person time to hide assets.

ANC MP Thandi Tobias said she did not understand what the sudden obsession with the Guptas was.

The bill requires that banks give special scrutiny to politically influential individuals.

The Fica bill's aim is to enhance South Africa’s ability to combat financial crimes such as money laundering and the financing of terrorism. 

Debating the bill, parties said the country was fertile ground for money laundering and financial terrorism.

Gordhan said the bill was about ensuring that the country was compliant with international requirements and standards.

“Financial crime remains a global concern. The recent Panama papers gave further indication about how wealthy individuals dodge tax and launder money. I hope none of us are on that list,” he said.

He said the consequences of South Africa not updating its laws, as it was doing now, would have major implications, including a struggle to participate in international trade. 

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